According to Cronje, franchise systems are based on a proven model that can be successfully replicated. Because of this, these types of businesses are often considered less risky by entrepreneurs.
The reality, however, is that no franchise is immune to tough economic conditions — success factors vary depending on the concept, strength of the brand, management and the industry.
Related: How Risky Is That Franchise?
Here are six challenges that all franchisees (and franchisors, for that matter) are currently dealing with, to varying degrees.
1. Shrinking disposable income
According to Cronje, the biggest threat currently facing the franchising sector is one that is affecting all consumer-oriented businesses: A shrinking pool of disposable income. Simply put, people have less money to spend on luxuries thanks to an increase in living costs.
And, of course, there is little that can be done about this fact.
It is simply a reality that needs to be accepted and dealt with as best as possible.
If the pie as a whole is shrinking, the only solution is to try to increase your share.
2. Increasing competition
A problem that franchisors trying to increase their share of the pie are facing, is the fact that an increasing number of global (and very recognisable) players are entering the local franchising sector.
Burger King, Domino’s and Krispy Kreme have all arrived, and other brands such as Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins are on their way.
How do you remain competitive amidst such competition? “The battle for market share is increasing, with businesses constantly finding new ways of satisfying customers that favour value for money and convenience over price and ambience,” says Cronje.
Sure, brand recognition is important, but things such as value and convenience are also vital, and many franchises are choosing to focus on this.
3. Rising costs
As with the shrinking disposable income of consumers, the rising cost of many products is an economic reality that many franchisees are being forced to deal with. Issues such as the current drought have caused prices to spike, and passing all of these increases on to the consumer simply isn’t an option.
4. Falling staff morale
When business conditions are not great, some franchises can often not afford to hire more staff (or even bring in temporary staff), leaving employees severely stretched and demotivated. Job security issues are also heightened during this time, as some employees may fear losing their jobs.
Cronje says motivating staff and constantly updating them on how the business is doing is extremely important, since excellent customer service goes a long way during tough times.
5. Bad debts
When times are tough, cash flow inevitably becomes an issue. With interest rates likely to continue increasing throughout the year, Cronje believes franchises may find it difficult to service debt and borrow more money.
Because of this, it is important to be conservative and not over-leverage. Now is not the time for aggressive expansion.
6. Adapting to consumer needs
“Following a tried-and-tested model is no longer a guarantee for success in the franchising sector. Convenience and innovation in technology is increasingly becoming important to customers,” says Cronje.
Easy ordering and the ability to customise orders are becoming very important, with some brands even allowing customers to order with the help of a mobile app. Innovation is important, and brands that don’t keep up with the times will find themselves left behind.
Get Your Franchise Running Smoothly – Even When You’re Not There
Does the thought of taking time off from your franchise outlet make you nervous? Then you have to learn to run your business instead of letting it run you.
“A sign of a successful business is one that can operate without your physical presence 24/7,” says Brad Sugars, start-up expert, author and founder of ActionCOACH. While your franchise systems and operations are designed to run smoothly and consistently, is your staff trained to be productive in your absence?
“Franchises are already by nature systematised operations, so it boils down to how you as a business owner hire and train people to get the necessary jobs done,” says Sugars.
If you know a sick day will cause havoc in your store, an assessment of how you’re running your business is needed. Are you really running a successful franchise if things fall about without your supervision? Take a step back and consider the following steps to manage your franchise without it controlling your life. Pretty soon you could book that vacation.
Determine your role in the franchise
Are you managing the franchise, taking orders, doing admin and handling every other aspect of the business? Then you’re not hiring the right people, because those roles should be filled by people who can be left to carry them out unsupervised.
“And if you don’t have the right people for the job then it might be time to start hiring, so you can free up your franchise’s most valuable resource – you,” says Pieter Scholtz, co-Master Licensee for ActionCOACH in Southern Africa.
“You need to get an idea of how you can hire people to take repetitive or administrative tasks away from you. Ask yourself: ‘Do I really need to be doing this?’” says Sugars. Your business cannot run optimally if you’re the single most-knowledgeable and capable person there.
Lead with clarity
You have long-term goals for your business, perhaps even acquiring more locations and running multiple units. While growth is good, you need to share the load and ensure everyone employed in your business is working towards the same goals, otherwise, it’ll be difficult to get there. Sugars suggests asking yourself the following:
- How will you make your vision a reality?
- What makes you different from other franchisees and business owners?
- What kind of team do you want to recruit and create?
- How does all of this deliver value to your customer?
Conveying your vision can help ensure employees know how to get to the end-goal faster and more efficiently.
Plan for long-term cash flow
Loyal customers ensure a constant flow of cash through the franchise and this requires exceptional service and the building of strong relationships. “Target your top-spending customers and establish a good relationship with them for long-term cash flow,” Sugars suggests.
Although the broader campaigns are covered by the marketing fee you’re paying to your franchisor, it’s wise to focus on your local’s tastes and suggestions when looking to deliver an experience worth returning for.
Are Your Employees On Board With Your Franchise’s Brand Promise?
You cannot run a successful franchise if your staff isn’t aligned to the brand’s values.
Are the people who work in your franchise outlet familiar with the franchise’s brand promise? As a franchisee, you’re required to deliver a uniform experience, so any customer who walks through your door feels like they’re at the same store the franchisor has across multiple locations. If your employees aren’t able to embody the franchise’s brand promise at every interaction, you have a challenge on hand.
“If your company’s brand promise is a warm and friendly atmosphere, you can’t deliver that if your employees aren’t warm and friendly,” says Robin William, Senior Practice Consultant at Gallup.
“Selecting the right employees is essential to providing the right brand service. Hiring people who can’t behave the way the brand wants them to will doom a service initiative.”
When employees know what’s expected of them, they’re able to keep the promise the franchise makes to customers – leading to higher customer and employee engagement, trust, and revenue.
More than a mission statement
Even if you’ve ensured every one of your staff members know the brand’s mission statement, how can you be sure they’re able to exemplify it in their behaviour every day? William suggests that you do the following:
- Create structures and mechanisms to consistently instil brand values in the franchise’s culture.
- Discuss brand behaviours daily.
- Demonstrate brand behaviours yourself every day.
- Praise the efforts of individuals who demonstrate brand behaviours.
- Hold employees accountable for not exhibiting brand behaviours.
Once you’ve clearly defined the right brand behaviours, it’ll be easier to have staff on board who deliver your franchisor’s brand promise.
Internalise the culture
Here’s a conundrum. Do your staff know what to do in a situation where a customer’s request might not be aligned with the brand promise, but the brand promise is always to deliver on customers’ requests? It’s a tricky situation, but if you’ve clearly articulated the promise, your staff will know how to “Behave the brand”, says William.
“Do whatever it takes to deliver on its brand promise. Whether it’s focusing quality, fast service, customer care, or low prices,” he says.
“Employees must execute brand and service behaviours consistently, and frequent reminders can help employees understand and internalise these behaviours.”
Empower your staff
Investing in your staff is the best way to encourage them to act in line with your brand’s promise. Once they understand why it’s important to act along the lines of your brand, they will feel empowered and motivated to do so.
Starbucks trains employees to memorise customers’ names and preferences in line with their promise of making everyone who visits their stores feel at home. Apple’s strategy of hiring nice, smart people who are passionate about service and the product aligns with the company’s belief that knowledge can be improved, but personality cannot.
How To Write An Operations Manual For Your Franchise
After establishing that your business is franchise material, ensure you’ve created a clear roadmap to success for your franchisees.
Documenting the replicability of your business is key to launching a viable franchise operation. Without manuals and instructions on how exactly you carried out your concept to its current level of success, your franchisees won’t accomplish the results you anticipate.
“Unless you can capture your business on paper, you cannot claim to have a business system to sell. Even detailed documentation may not be enough,” says Franchise Direct’s Lorraine Courtney.
“You may need to provide structured education programmes for new franchisees and their staff to teach them your business system.”
With the help of an experienced franchise consultant, you can devise the critical document that contains all the aspects of what make your brand successful.
Why you need a franchise operations manual
If you’re second-guessing the importance of crafting an operations manual, then you shouldn’t go into franchising. “Your operations manual is your go-to document for deciding who is responsible for what in any franchisor-franchisee relationship,” says Dani Peleva, Managing Director at online marketing agency, Local Fame.
According to Peleva, your manual should generally include each franchisee’s contractual obligations to you as well as the complete details on how you expect them to fulfil these obligations.
“On a basic level, it tells your franchisees what you expect of them. It gives them all the information that you’ve accumulated while operating your franchise,” says Peleva. After familiarising themselves with this manual, franchisees should know how the information can be used to build their own business up to be as successful as the original store.
What an operations manual will do for your business
When all your franchisees know what’s expected from them as they run their respective locations, the entire brand is then able to provide a cohesive, coherent customer experience, which is crucial to your success as a franchisor.
A good manual will also help you build better relationships with your franchisees as they won’t need to constantly contact you to clarify aspects of the business they’re not sure of. If they’re applying the information in the manual, they should know everything you know about how to run this type of business, meaning they’ll make good profits – for you and themselves.
“One of the steps most potential franchisees make before signing an agreement will be to contact your other franchisees. A strong manual will help your current franchisees return positive feedback,” adds Peleva.
How to decide which elements to include
Obligations detailed in your franchisee agreement will have to correspond with steps on how to achieve them in your franchise manual. As a new franchisor, you cannot be expected to have a manual as thick and wordy as your established counterparts.
Peleva suggests covering aspects such as:
- How to set up a franchisee location and start trading
- How daily operations will be conducted
- How development or expansion will be controlled.
“Your operations manual should always include as much detail as possible regarding operational practices that are to be followed,” says Peleva. “A simple list item that states ‘this obligation must be fulfilled’ is not helpful. Looks always to the ‘how’ of the issue and you’ll cover everything you need to.”
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